This is wild to step back in time. It was our second international trip after moving to Singapore. The first was exploring Bali in Indonesia, but with only one babe in tow- plus an 8 month pregnant me.
I vividly remember looking at Josh like he was crazy. Flights to Thailand were cheap in the spring, and it was only a 1.5 hr flight. It all sounded good in theory. But we had a one year old, and I had just brought a new human into this world. My husband had officially lost his gourd, y'all. He thought we could do it. Had full faith in the two of us traipsing a toddler and barely there two month old around Thailand. But we did, and looking back...I'm so very glad we did.
If anyone ever says in passing, "wow, you take so many vacations! So nice to be able to relax in paradise." Can I tell you this could not be further from the truth if you have kids. Traveling with babies (and especially toddlers) is the exact opposite of a vacation. It is a trip, and I mother just the same there as I would at home. If I'm being 100% honest, it's loads more difficult than staying home. There are things to plan and buy and organize. And heaven forbid, you have a hawk-eye on your children the whole time for things they will put in their mouth. Foreign nasty things. Ughhh. Relaxing and enjoyable are the last words that come to mind. Hah!
But like each country cemented into my memory, the stressful times become a laughing matter, and the good times stick with you. Really stick with you. During the mass chaos, you will find yourself saying "no way I'm ever doing this again!" But then, you return home. Flipping through photos. Reminiscing about tiny details. You can't wait to do it all over again. I mean, how cute is it our eldest said "boat" for the first time while gazing at an authentic, long-tail bobbing up and down anchored to shore. Is it cute to have him dash through the airport throwing caution to the wind? NO. Absolutely not. But there is nothing like seeing your one year old burst through at full-speed fully exclaiming "ah pane! ah pane!" when he realizes he's getting on that airplane. It's a priceless memory.
We've been to Thailand a few times, but this one was extra special. It was Evan's first flight and our first trip as a family of four. SO many things we had to figure out for that "first" adventure, and we thought staying at a resort-type place would make things easier. While that is somewhat true, you can't experience the true cultural of a country without getting off the resort grounds.
BOOKING TIP while in DEVELOPING COUNTRIES:
We've traveled around many third world countries, and checking the cleanliness of the water supply is gravely important, especially when little ones are in tow. Always double check if the tap water is safe to consume where you are staying. Unfortunately, the water at this resort was not and I'm so very glad we asked again upon checking in. You can stay at nice places all you want, but that doesn't negate the fact you are in a developing or third world country where clean water is a luxury. At places like this, you need to take extra precaution when showering/bathing little ones to prevent them from splashing water into their mouths. They can get very very sick if not properly watched. As adults, we know to use bottled water to brush teeth and not sing in the shower. Children don't know any different, and it's an extra step we need to take in keeping them safe. Looks can be deceiving...always ask! This gorgeously updated, modern hotel did NOT have clean drinking water from the tap.
You will forever have individuals give you the speech, "The kids are too young for this. Why does it matter now? Stay at the resort and relax." And to that I laugh, because one does not simply relax at the beach or lounge around the pool with a baby and toddler. So why not get out and share the experiences? If we had decided to hole up and stay at the resort for five days, we would have missed out on these SIX fun things!
(We never booked a tour guide or driver. The following explorations were made completely on our own behalf)
1.) THE BOYS' FIRST RIDE IN A TRADITIONAL TUK-TUK:
Experiencing our first, family ride in a tuk-tuk (a motorized bike with benches attached) to a place recommended by a co-worker of Josh’s, way off the beaten path. Sure, we could’ve taken a taxi, but why not do as the Thai people?
Keeping with the spirit of living like a local...we hitched a ride back to our place in a neon tuk tuk. With the music and obnoxious lights, this thing made me think I should’ve been at Myrtle Beach during senior week. Hah! Jack was telling us to "shhh" since Evan was sleeping. Good thing the baby can sleep anywhere. You could hear this thing from a mile away!
...when in Rome, as they always say!
2.) EVAN'S EXPRESSION WHEN I ORDERED AN ENTIRE FRIED FISH:
Don't mind the shiny face. It really is that hot all.the.time.
3.) FEEDING AN ELEPHANT OUTSIDE OF A ZOO:
Elephants are such gentle loving creatures. I never knew their true noises, but it sounds a lot like a deep- voiced donkey- EEEEE AHHH. It was super cool to pet and feed them outside of a zoo.
And to see the conditions where the caretakers lived was a humbling experience to say the least: no real walls, floors, running water, or sanitation. Most of them had chickens living with them. Not outside, because remember... no walls - but WITH them.
4.) UNIQUE EXPERIENCES ON A PUBLIC BEACH:
We had a beautifully gated and guarded beach at our resort. But can I tell you about the intriguing people we met on a nearby public beach? Humorous and fascinating. Stray dogs we saw playing? Jack loved that. And sat on the stairs watching the local fishermen come in from their day's work? Incredible. We meandered along Ao Nang beach to watch the sunset and peruse the local shops of Krabi before heading back to tuck in for the night.
5.) DEVOURING TRULY AUTHENTIC LOCAL CUISINE:
Sure I could have ordered pad Thai at the restaurant in the lobby, but to have it served out of a food cart is generally more delicious and always cheaper than the resort. Yes, this was from a street-side stand!
And hello? Three words. Mango sticky rice. I still have dreams about it. If you've never had a fresh thai mango, ohhh you are missing out. It's heaven on Earth. It literally melts in your mouth and tastes like honey. Oh my my.
6.) SAVING MONEY ON SPA TREATMENTS:
If you ever stay at a beach resort in a foreign country, don’t go to the resort spa. I’ll say it again, DON’T go to the resort spa. You might as well throw money straight into the ocean. An hour massage at the hotel was $80. Not bad, but the hut on the beach next door was $10 for an HOUR AND A HALF! Plus, it’s outside...in the shade...with a breeze. And while the ocean soundtracks in the spa are a nice feature, nothing beats hearing the real thing. Sigh. You can usually find these places right beside resorts, too, so you don’t have to walk far. We did the same thing in Mexico, and it was ah-mazing! Take turns with the kiddos, and head out for a cheap and uber-relaxing moment.
Southeast Asia is known for their massages, especially Thailand. Oh man, a genuine Thai massage is heavenly if you have tight muscles. Once the massage is complete, they will bend, pull and stretch your body. You will definitely leave feeling all loosey goose. I have an absolutely terrible back, and it's THE best. Not a bad view in exchange for a massage and a 10 dollar bill!
After my session, I had this guy whack open a coconut for me to enjoy on the stroll back 🙂
It's taking in what Thai culture is like. How the people of Krabi live their lives. Strike up a conversation with a local in their village- the bartender at the hotel doesn't count. Ask them questions. See things from their perspective. Enjoying the random thoughts foreigners have about America and seeing our country through their eyes is fascinating.
After we dug into the world around us, we did spend a few moments poolside and walking the beach where we were staying. We took it all in. Goofing off, taking pictures, swimming with the boys, and slurping up all the tropical goodness in the Land of Smiles.
While vacationing (especially flying internationally) with a toddler and a baby can be challenging, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. It takes patience and a tremendous amount of teamwork, but I would highly encourage any couple to do it. The kids won’t remember it, but we will. And these memories... oh so unforgettable.
It's never easy, but always worth it!
Want More Reasons to Travel?